Texas 2-Step

Seems like the Year of the Goat all over again.  Even though Tai Sui‘s celestial seat is supposed to be located in the west-southwest during the Year of the Monkey, misfortune continues to befall travelers in and around the annual SXSW festival in Austin.  It’s almost as though the previous year’s Tai Sui has refused to cede full power over human fate to his duly-appointed successor.  If so, this could be an ominous portent.

  • Exhibit One —

Louis Meyers, one of the four founders of the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in 1987, died early Friday of a heart attack in Austin, on the day the SXSW festival opened for its 30th year.  He was 60.  Meyers was the SXSW’s music festival director for its first eight years.  He sold his share in the business to partners Roland Swenson, Louis Black and Nick Barbaro after the 1994 conference.


  • Exhibit Two —

Ibtihaj Muhammad is ranked seventh in the world in the women’s saber.  She earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic fencing team in January and will become the first U.S. athlete to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab (red, white and blue, of course), the head scarf she wears in accordance with her religious beliefs. [But] on Saturday at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Muhammad was asked by a volunteer to remove her hijab for a security photo and later tweeted that she couldn’t “make this stuff up.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Muhammad, the daughter of a retired detective and a special education teacher, is intent on using her time in the spotlight to show the U.S. and the rest of the world that Muslim-Americans should be embraced, not shunned. “I’ve never questioned myself as an American and my position here,” Muhammad said. “This is my home. This is who I am. My family has always been here. We’re American by birth, and it’s a part of who I am and this is all that I know.

  • Exhibit Three —

United Flight 1704 left Newark Liberty International Airport en route to Austin at 6 a.m. Monday.  But it returned to the airport twenty minutes later after the crew on the Boeing 739 reported a strong odor in the cabin.  An investigation is underway on what might have caused the smell, which was described only as strong.

Of course, New Jerseyans know strong odors when they smell ’em: after all, the Bayway refinery in Elizabeth has been stinking up the northern stretch of Turnpike for generations.  So the aircraft cabin stench probably wasn’t merely petrochemical in nature.  Instead, this story reminds me of the two-step test for land navigation in the southwestern U.S.:  If you smell shit, you’re in Oklahoma.  When you step in it, you’re in Texas.




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